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Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints.

Saints Behaving Badly The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints WRITTEN BY Thomas J. Craughwell PUBLISHED BY Doubleday, Toronto and New York, 2006 ISBN: 0385517203, Hardcover, pp. 208, $21.00 CAD

The author of this attractive book has written a dozen books, including one on saints; he also regularly writes in newspapers and discusses the lives of saints on TV.

This book has a novel approach to saints' lives, an approach which teaches an important truth: God forgives the repentant person, indeed so much that they can not only gain heaven but can also gain the glory and pre-eminence of beatified or canonized saints. (Several of these saints were raised to the altars, of course, before today's highly formal procedures such as beatification or canonization were adopted.)

The lives of twenty-eight saints are presented. The author takes pains to distinguish history from the minefield of legend, though sometimes the most that can be achieved is to accept the most plausible account of the life of someone who is certainly recognized as a saint.

Some of the saints presented are well-known men and women, such as Matthew, Dismas, Augustine, Patrick, Thomas Becket, Francis, Ignatius, Peter Claver, and Matt Talbot. We shall present here the sinful and then the penitential and heroic lives of four lesser-known saints who are dealt with in the book.

St. Genesius (died c. 300) was an actor. The Romans considered actors to be corrupt. Genesius was commanded to perform before the emperor Diocletian. He chose a role that mocked Catholic baptism. At the moment of the baptism, however, totally unexpectedly, apparently for Genesius himself as well, he stood up and denounced the Emperor for his cruelty to Christians. For this, he was tortured to death. Today he is the patron saint of actors. At present, his relics are in the Church of St. Susanna in Rome, which is the parish of the American community there.

St. Fabiola (d. 399) was a rich Catholic woman who divorced her husband. This may well have been to her credit, but she married another man, which caused a scandal in Rome. It was when her second husband died that she sought public remission for her sins from the Pope and devoted her wealth to endowing monasteries and convents, clothing the poor of Rome, and supporting invalids.

St. Alipius (360-429) was the son of a noble family and received a good education. In Carthage he became a friend of St. Augustine. He was crazy about the chariot races in the frequent circuses, and bet on them. Augustine converted him, but when he went to Rome to study he reverted to what Augustine called his "madness." Alipius however stayed with Augustine and went with him to listen to St. Ambrose, the Archbishop of Milan, where they were living at the time. Finally Alipius was baptized in 387, became a bishop, and remained a close friend of Augustine.

St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-97) was very beautiful. She lived with the son of a baron, but he refused to marry her since he was a nobleman and she a peasant. She lived with him for nine years without sorrow at her sinfulness. One day the news arrived that he had been killed. She then made her confession at the Franciscan monastery in Cortona and adopted a penitential life. In time she established a hospital for women and one for men.

It seems to me that an important effect of this book is to convince good people with sinful pasts that such pasts can be definitively forgiven by sincere repentance. Quite a few persons who have reformed, or who wish to reform, can doubt whether God has forgiven their sins of the past. They recognize the seriousness of their sins and then find it difficult to realize the greatness of divine mercy. They may even refrain from making an act of contrition or from going to Confession, not being sure that God can really turn our sins from being scarlet to become as white as snow. The histories in this book should convince them that God is always waiting for sinners, like the father of the prodigal son. He desires the life, and not the death, of every human being.

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Author:Kennedy, Leonard
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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